Sierra Nevada Locals

Pay close attention to these groups of insects when fly fishing in the Sierra Nevada.


Stoneflies (Plecoptera) of the Sierra Nevada

Plecoptera is one of the better known orders of freshwater invertebrates in California. It is also a small group (based on number of species) compared with Caddisflies. At present, 167 species are known in the state; 122 of these are present in the Sierra and 31 are endemic to the Sierra (R. L. Bottorff, R. Baumann, B. P. Stark, and N. A. Erman 1996). The Sierra-Cascade system and the Appalachian system are considered the "two great centers of endemicity" for the North American Plecoptera. Most stoneflies are dependent on lotic habitats (running water) of high oxygen and low temperature, and so it is not surprising that their distribution would be concentrated in the Sierra.

Nymph of Golden Stonefly

Golden Stone Emergence

A week or two before adult emergence begins the mature nymphs migrate from mid-stream nearer to shore. These migrations produce a large increase in the number of drifting nymphs, and is the ideal time to fish nymph imitations. But like many hatches, it's the adults that create the most excitement for anglers. When adults are abundant dry fly fishing can be extremely exciting and productive. Exactly when adults emerge will vary with locale and weather. The golden stone hatch in Northern California typically occurs from early to mid May.

Adult Golden Stonefly

Cold spring weather delays this hatch a week or two later, while warm spring weather triggers an earlier hatch. Water temperature plays a major role in adult emergence. For western species, water temperatures reaching 50 to 55 degrees trigger a hatch. Because stream temperature warms from downstream to upstream through the season, hatches start at low elevations and move upstream.

Golden Stone Hatch Table

Stonefly Species Winter Months Spring Months Summer Months Fall Months
Calineuria californica May, June July, August
Hesperoperla pacifica April, May, June July, August

Imitations for Golden Stoneflies

Pattern Name Color Hook Size Thumbnail Image
Bead Head Poxyback Biot Golden Stone White Body # 12
Bead Head Poxyback Biot Golden Stone
Stimulator Fire Orange Body # 12